Burmese women suffer, as companies grab "white gold"
US drops sanctions against regime
Last week the Obama administration joined several other states (including those within the European Union) in dropping sanctions against Burma's military regime.
The US government says its new policy will include safeguards preventing US companies from doing business "with individuals who have engaged in human rights abuses and with companies with ties to Burma's military".
However, virtually all current extractive projects (except those in territory controlled by the Karen National Union) derive income for the Burmese armed forces.
In an 8th May 2012 report, a Lahu indigenous women's organisation spotlights the exploitation of women by domestic and Chinese companies, as they "grab for platinum" in Shan State.
"By paying off the local Burmese military, mining companies are able to carry out operations without adhering to any social or environmental standards", claims the organisation.
It has called on the Burmese government "to put an immediate stop to these destructive mining operations".
Grab for White Gold: Platinum Mining in Eastern Shan State is available for download in English (Burmese and Lahu) at: http://www.http://lahuwomen.org/download/gwg-english.pdf
Women suffer in Burma as companies grab for "white gold"
8 May 2012
Burmese and Chinese companies are pushing aside Akha, Lahu and Shan villagers in eastern Shan State in a grab for platinum ("white gold" in Burmese).
|Grab for White Gold: Impacts of platinum mining
in Eastern Shan State Report Cover
Women are facing particular hardship due to the loss of livelihood and the contamination of water sources. The Lahu Women Organization is calling for an immediate halt to these damaging mining operations.
According to their report: Since 2007, destructive platinum mining has been taking place in the hills north of Tachilek, eastern Shan State, impacting about 2,000 people from eight Lahu, Akha and Shan villages. The platinum is being extracted by Burmese mining companies and exported to China and Thailand.
Five companies are currently operating around the Akha village of Ah Yeh, 13 kilometers north of Tachilek. They have forced villagers to sell property and land at cheap prices, and confiscated other lands without compensation.
Hundreds of acres of farms and forestland have been seized, or destroyed by dumping of mining waste. The villagers' access road to the main highway has been ruined by the passage of heavy mining trucks and machinery. The main water source for local villagers has been diverted and contaminated by the mining, causing tremendous hardship for local women, who must now walk long distances to do their washing.
Women are also facing increased security risks from the influx of migrant male miners into the area. There is regular sexual harassment of women going to their fields. Young women are being taken as minor wives by the miners; some are also becoming sex workers. Mining staff have also been involved in trafficking of local women.
There is no rule of law protecting the rights of the local villagers. By paying off the local Burmese military, mining companies are able to carry out operations without adhering to any social or environmental standards. The companies and platinum buyers in neighbouring countries are therefore maximizing profits by avoiding responsibility for the social and environmental costs of the mines.
The Lahu Women's Organisation therefore calls on the Burmese government to put an immediate stop to these destructive mining operations, which are not contributing to local development, but are causing poverty and environmental degradation..."